With tornadoes it can be easy to fall into a complacent mind-set of “it will never happen to me” because those only happen in Tornado Alley – that region between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. This is an incorrect and dangerous assumption as was indicated in the Hampton Roads, VA area recently where there was damage incurred throughout the region from a couple of tornadoes. Tornadoes rank third on the National Weather Service’s list of weather events that cause the most fatalities (see chart). Therefore, everyone needs to know the importance of taking severe weather and tornado warnings seriously due to the fact that tornadoes can occur anywhere there is severe weather (convective environment – mostly in conjunction with thunderstorms).
Tornadoes, the most violent natural hazard, are rotating, funnel-shaped clouds formed from thunderstorms. Strong winds are their most destructive aspect, with gusts reaching as high as 300 mph. The damage path can be a mile wide. Tornado season is generally Spring through Summer, but tornadoes can occur any time of the year. They most often occur at the tail end of a thunderstorm. Eighty percent of tornadoes occur between noon and midnight. While some areas are more prone to tornadoes than others, they can occur anywhere, so it is best to be prepared.
Here are some institutions that provide helpful safety tips:
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/summer_safety.html
- National Weather Service (or local news agencies)
- American Red Cross has a very short and to the point break down: